Next, let us consider space. Is space quantized? In previous posts, we discussed the theory that a vacuum, empty space, is like a witch’s cauldron bubbling with virtual particles. This theory dates back to Paul Dirac who, in 1930, postulated a vacuum is filled with electron-positron pairs (Dirac sea). Therefore, most quantum physicists would argue that a vacuum is a sea of virtual matter-antimatter particles. This means, even a vacuum (empty space) consists of quantums of energy.

Other forms of energy are in a vacuum. We will illustrate this with a simple question. Do you believe a true void (empty space) exists somewhere in the universe? We can create an excellent vacuum in the laboratory using a well-designed vacuum chamber hooked to state-of-the-art vacuum pumps. We can go deep into outer space. However, regardless of where we go, is it truly void? In addition to virtual particles in empty space, are the gravitational fields. (Viewing gravity as a field is a classical view of gravity. As discussed previously, gravity may mediate via a particle, termed the graviton. For the sake of simplicity, I will use classical phasing, and view gravity as a field.) The gravitational fields would be present in the vacuum chamber, and present even deep in space. Even if the vacuum chamber itself were deep in space, gravitational fields would be present within the chamber. Part of the gravitational field would come from the chamber itself. The rest of the gravitational field would come from the universe. The universe is made up of all types of matter, and the matter radiates a gravitational field infinitely into space. Everything pulls on everything in the universe. The adage, “Nature abhors a vacuum,” should read, “Nature abhors a void.” Voids do not exist in nature. Within each void is a form of energy. Even if it were possible to remove every particle, the void would contain virtual particles and gravitational fields. As said before, we have not found the graviton, the hypothetical massless particle that mediates gravity, but if you are willing to accept its existence, it is possible to argue that empty space consists of quantums of energy. It bubbles with virtual particles and gravitons.

We can posit another argument that space, itself, is quantized. We will start by asking a question. Is there an irreducible dimension to space similar to the irreducible elements of matter? The short answer is yes. It is the Planck length. We can define the Planck using three fundamental physical constants of the universe, namely the speed of light in a vacuum (c), Planck’s constant (h), and the gravitational constant (G). The scientific community views the Planck length as a fundamental of nature. It is approximately equal to 10-36 meters (10-36 is a one divided by a one with thirty-six zeros  after it), smaller than anything we can measure. Physicists debate its meaning, and it remains an active area of theoretical research. Recent scientific thinking is that it is about the length of a “string” in string theory. Quantum physicists argue, based on the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, it is the smallest dimension of length that can theoretically exist.

Does all this argue that space consists of quantized energy? To my mind, it does.

  • First, it contains quantized matter-antimatter particles (Dirac sea).
  • Second, it contains gravitons (the hypothetical particle of gravity).
  • Third, and lastly, space has an irreducible dimension; a finite length termed the Planck length.

Thus far, we have made convincing arguments that mass and space consist of quantized energy. Next, let’s turn our attention to time. In previous posts, we discussed Planck time (~ 10-43 seconds, which is a one divided by a one with forty-three zero after it). As stated in those posts, theoretically, Planck time is the smallest time frame we will ever be able to measure. In addition, Planck time, similar to the Planck length, is a fundamental feature of reality. We can define Plank time using the fundamental constants of the universe, similar to the methodology to define the Planck length. According to the laws of physics, we would be unable to measure “change” if the time interval were shorter that a Planck interval. In other words, the Planck interval is the shortest interval we humans are able to measure or even comprehend change to occur. This is compelling evidence that time, itself, may consist of quantums, with each quantum equal to a Planck interval. However, this does not make the case that time is quantized energy. To make that case, we will need to revisit the Existence Equation Conjecture discussed in previous posts:

KEX4 = -.3mc2

Where KEX4is the energy associated with an object’s movement in time, m is mass and c is the speed of light in a vacuum.

The Existence Equation Conjecture implies that movement in time (or existence) requires negative energy. The equation, itself, relates energy to the mass (m) that is moving in time. However, in the last post (Part 1) we argued that all mass is reducible to elementary particles, which ultimately are equivalent to discrete packets of energy via Einstein’s mass-energy equivalence equation (E=mc2). This suggests the Existence Equation Conjecture implies that movement in time embodies a quantized energy element. Therefore, if we combine our concept of the Planck interval with the quantized energy nature of time implied by the Existence Equation Conjecture, we can argue that time is a form of quantized energy.

Source: Unraveling the Universe’s Mysteries (2012), Louis A. Del Monte

Image: iStockphoto (licensed)